For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way – 2 Thessalonians 2:7
What you see happening in the world right now, should not surprise you. God in His word has warned us. Prophecy is not meant to scare us but to prepare us. And in numerous places we are given insight and clear warning about what to expect in the Last Days. What I am about to share with you is not exhaustive but only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what God reveals in His prophetic word about the last days. But let’s look at some of those places in scripture as well as how they pertain to our present circumstances.
The Olivet Discourse of Jesus
Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 provide us with the words of Jesus in what is called The Olivet Discourse. It’s called that because Jesus taught it on the Mount of Olives just east of the walls of Jerusalem.
The Olivet Discourse of Jesus is His detailed teaching on a period in history known as the seventieth week of Daniel. It’s also known as The Tribulation or Great Tribulation because it will be a time of tribulation on the earth like no other time of tribulation. This is a uniquely difficult time on the face of the earth and to its inhabitant. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). So, while we can definitely see in the history of the world times of tribulation, they are distinguished from the Tribulation time spoken of here by Jesus by the intensity and severity of the Tribulation. And prophecy about this Tribulation time given to Daniel is specifically about what is “determined for your people” (Daniel 9:24). The Olivet Discourse of Jesus therefore, is primarily about Israel, not the church.
If that’s the case, then why should we, the church, be interested in anything in this Discourse of Jesus? Read on.
The Relevance of the Olivet Discourse to the Church
The Olivet Discourse of Jesus is aimed primarily to Israel in the Latter Days. This is based on the evidence that refers to things directly connected to Israel like the “synagogues” (Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12), reference to Daniel 9 which is a prophecy directly pertaining to Israel, to the Fig Tree which is a symbol associated with Israel (Matthew 24:32-25; Mark 13:28-31; and Luke 21:29-33).
So, is the Olivet Discourse only about Israel? Is there any relevance of this teaching of Jesus to the church? I believe there is. As we’ve seen, Jesus went into significant detail about what to expect in the time leading up to His Second Coming (Matthew 24:27-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28). The thing to remember here is that Jesus’ Return occurs after the details described in His Discourse. What Jesus describes in the Olivet Discourse are events and happenings that lead up to His Return. Even more detail about these events is given in Revelation 6-19.
But how is the relevant to the church? It’s relevant because when Jesus begins sharing the details of this time, He uses the phrase, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8; Mark 13:8). That word “sorrows” (Greek odin) means literally birth pangs. Anyone who has been around someone in the late stages of a pregnancy knows that birth pangs come gradually with increasing degrees of pain until the child is birthed. Therefore, if the events described by Jesus are “the beginning” of birth pangs, while the church will not be around to see and experience the birth of this prophetic time in history, it will see and experience the beginning of these prophetic birth pangs.
Further evidence of the relevance of these words of Jesus to the church are found in Luke’s record where in the Discourse it states: “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). Now, Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans who were putting down a Jewish insurrection. That was the beginning of the trampling of this Holy City. But in 1948 Israel was rebirthed as a nation. And in 1967 she regained control of the Temple Mount. These two events are significant because they are signals that we are transitioning from the “times of the Gentiles” to the time of Tribulation when Israel will once again by God’s focus to deal with this lost world.
Right now, Israel is blind to Jesus being their long-awaited Messiah. God is working to rectify this situation. He is using the bride of Christ, the Church, “to provoke them to jealousy,” because, “salvation has come to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:11). Unfortunately, the Church made up primarily of Gentles who believe in Jesus as Savior, throughout much of history have been a part of persecutions of God’s people the Jews. This reality is indefensible. Even today there are those in the Church who hold to what is called Replacement Theology which teaches the Church has replaced Israel. This is an aberrant teaching unsupported by scripture. Of the covenant between God the Father and Israel His people, the Bible states:
- Jeremiah 31:35–37 – Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The Lord of hosts is His name): 36“If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever.” 37 Thus says the Lord: “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord.
- Jeremiah 33:20–21 – 20 “Thus says the Lord: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, 21 then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers.
These are words of permanence. God has not forsaken Israel. He has disciplined them. They have experienced a lot of hardship and tribulation historically. And there is still much ahead of them (cf. Revelation 6-19). But God is not finished with them. Not yet. And there is an incredible redemptive conclusion for Israel. Paul is inspired to state a time is coming when “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).
But when will Israel’s “blindness” end? When will she again be front and center in God’s prophetic plans? The next step of transition in God’s prophetic plan will involve the passing of the baton from the Church to Israel. And that will happen when “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).
The Bible states, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but it longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The context of that verse is that in the “last days” “scoffers will come” (2 Peter 3:3). They will scoff about the promise of the return of Jesus. They will say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). We see much of this today. Unfortunately, we see such scoffing in the church itself. People have allowed the chaos in this fallen world squeeze the blessed hope of Jesu right out of them.
A time is coming. It is a time known by God alone. It is a time when “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” What does that mean? It means, God in His sovereignty, has set a number on how many Gentiles will be saved before He imposes this transition from the Church to Israel again. When that last Gentile has received Jesus as Savior, BANG, the transition will be made.
The Blessed Hope
How will we know when the last Gentile has received Jesus and the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in”? We will know it by an event know as the Rapture. The Bible speaks of a prophetic event in the near future when Jesus will come for His bride the Church and receiver her to Himself in the clouds. This event is described in 1 Thessalonians where it states:
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 – 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Notice, those living on earth at the tie of this event, “shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Jesus is coming in the Rapture to rescue His bride from what is coming upon this earth, the Tribulation. The Bible says this event will take place, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
Why will Jesus come and remove His bride the Church from this world? Haven’t Christians throughout the centuries gone through “tribulation”? What makes the last Tribulation different from any other? What makes it different is that the Tribulation is a time when God’s wrath is poured out on a Christ-rejecting world (Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15). That is significant.
Satan will pour out his wrath too during this time (Revelation 12:12). But Satan’s wrath has no redemptive value. God’s wrath on the other hand is just, as well as redemptive. God’s wrath during this time is a version of tough love. God’s wrath at this time has the purpose of to shake up a Christ-rejecting world to the reality of God and need of a Savior Jesus. God’s wrath will serve to fumigate this dirty fallen world, like a maid makes up or prepares a hotel room for its next inhabitant. In this case that will be Jesus the King of kings who will set up His kingdom on earth. Lastly, God’s wrath and work during the Tribulation is to wake up Israel to their Messiah Jesus. You might say that this time is to rebirth Israel spiritually. The “birth pangs” in the Olivet Discourse of Jesus point to a rebirth of Israel into the prophetic plans of God.
But that the Tribulation is a time of God’s outpoured wrath on this world is significant because Christians are saved from the wrath of God to come. Those who have turned from their sins to Jesus and received Him as their Savior and Lord, they are forgiven and spared God’s wrath. The Bible states:
- Romans 5:9 – 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10 – 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:9 – 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- Revelation 3:10 – 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
We are “saved from wrath through “Jesus. Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come.” That’s because, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” from His righteous wrath. For those who have received Jesus as Savior, the atoning cross work of Jesus who took our wrath for us, spares us that wrath.
That means, Christians will not go through the Tribulation because it is a time of God’s wrath and we are saved from His wrath. That, my beloved believer in Jesus, is our “blessed hope.”
In writing to Pastor Titus, the Apostle Paul spoke of this “blessed hope” by saying:
- Titus 2:11–14 – 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
These are gloriously blessed words. God’s grace saves us and that salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to live holy lives in this unholy age. And it teaches us to look for “the blessed hope” or God’s escape plan for Christians to avoid His Tribulational time of wrath.
Here Paul also mentions Jesus’ “glorious appearing.” This is a reference to Jesus Second Coming when “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7; cf. also Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:29-33). All will know at that time that Jesus is “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The Rapture, on the other hand, is a secret coming of Jesus who comes “as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). So, in this one verse, Titus 2:13, we have a reference to the two aspects of Jesus’ return.
It’s Just Like Jesus Said it Would Be
So, when we look at Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, what birth pangs or signs of the End do we see? Do they line up with anything going on in the world today? Remember, the things mentioned by Jesus in His Discourse occur incidentally throughout history. The issue and difference to note is whether or not what we see today is moving toward a greater intensity of occurrence so that what we see is “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).
4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
Deception, falsehoods, misinformation and outright lying are things Jesus emphasized would be happening in the End. Is that what we see today? You bet! I can’t remember a time when media world-wide was so much misinformation. Much of this is fueled by those with an agenda to create a one world global government. This global system of rule seeks to squash the sovereignty of any one nation. It is the system that will ultimately be headed up by a demonically empowered world leader referred to in scripture as Antichrist. Anywhere Satan is involved, there will be deceit (John 8:44). And Antichrist will be powered by Satan and ascend for a time to the top position in a global government (cf. Revelation 13). This agenda already permeates much of the world’s governments and educational systems. And it is filled with deceit, just like Jesus said it would be.
What about Jesus saying, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ”? It’s likely that Antichrist will ascend to power claiming to be a christ figure or possibly another avatar or incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Antichrist will be empowered by Satan, but his allegiance to Satan will not be disclosed right away. First, he will kill the world with his kindness and charisma. They he will enslave them and use them for his evil purposes.
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.
China is vying for world prominence. North Korea and South Korea are always a hair’s breath away from conflict. It’s not hard to find a war either raging or brewing. Keep your eye on the Middle East. Turkey is vying to resurrect a caliphate. There are constant military threats in the Middle east in Syria, between Iran and Iraq, between the Middle Eastern nation flavor of the day and Israel, just like Jesus said there would be.
See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
These are only the beginning of the birth pangs. The end is not yet. But don’t respond to those words with complacency. Jesus could return at any time. Are you ready?
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
The word for “nation” in Greek is ethnos. We get our word “ethnicity” from this term. We have ethnic conflict during the civil war, again during world war two, in our nation in the sixties, and now again in 2020. Racial conflict seems to be at an all time high. So intense and emotionally charged is the conflict that people can’t or won’t even discuss the issue. We’ve seen mass rioting, and insurrection. The intensity of conflict we see is nerve wracking and unsettling. People are being attacked simply because of the color of their skin. Many in response are doing everything they can to appease radical groups who have ceased the opportunity to push a revolutionary agenda. There’s intense and constant conflict just like Jesus said there would be.
And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
The COVID 19 pandemic has shut down economies and restricted all resources. We are coming out of it now. But early on people were hoarding toilet paper and other necessities. The food supply, even in the wealthy nation of America, we questioned. There are earth quakes in the south western United States as well as the Ring of Fire in the Pacific. There are these things and more. Just like Jesus said there would be.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Sunday, July 5th, the day after Independence Day in the United States, a Baptist church in Troy New York was invaded by protestors shouting “Black lives matter.”  Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King said in a speech that churches should be destroyed and statues of Christian figures should be torn down.  On the other hand, the radical Marxist group Black Lives Matter has seemingly joined forces with Islam.  In a NYC protest, time was allowed for Muslims to pray.  All of this does not bode well for Christians and their congregations. We are seeing the rise of an environment where it will be acceptable to persecute Christians, just as Jesus said it would be.
What Should We Do?
There is a passage in the second letter of Paul to the Thessalonian church that is very relevant for those inquiring about the Last Days. The church in Thessalonica was a young church, and yet they seem to have been well verses and interested in prophecy. That’s a good example for us to follow. Too many Christians have a hide-your-head-in-the-sand mentality. Such an attitude runs in direct contrast to Jesus’ instructions and the New Testament. What should we do? How should we respond? Here is some Biblical instruction.
While we are still here, restrain evil. Paul was inspired to write to the Thessalonians:
- 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 – Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
In verse seven of this passage Paul speaks of “He who now restrains.” There is some debate about who or Who this refers to. I believe it is both who and Who, as a restrainer. I believe this is the Holy Spirit working through the church to restrain evil in the world. The passage speaks of not being shaken about the return of Christ as though we had missed His coming (verses 1-2). Paul piggy-backs on Jesus’ words by exhorting them not to be deceived (verse 3). That seems to be a constant reminder connected with the Last Days, deception. Don’t be deceived.
Paul mentions “the falling away” in verse three. This is a translation of the Greek term apostasia. This is a word that we often associate with breaking away from orthodoxy. But it is a word that in its most basic definition simply means departure. Could this be a reference to the Rapture? I believe it could. I believe it could refer to the Rapture as well as a falling away from the faith when all true born-again believers are removed from this world.
Right after the Rapture we have the disclosure of the Antichrist (verse 4). He will exalt Himself “as God in the temple of God, showing that he is God.” That means the temple in Jerusalem will have to be rebuilt. If some day you awake to a news report that permission has been granted for the temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt, well, just find some open space and look up because Jesus will be right around the corner.
This Antichrist is a “lawless one.” The mention of lawlessness permeates the account relating to the end times (verse 7, 8, 9). Lawlessness is overflowing in the world today. Other aspects of this end time period mentioned here are “power, signs and lying wonders” (verse 9), “unrighteous deception among those who perish,” (verse 10), refusal to receive the truth of God (verse 10), “strong delusion” so that they “believe the lie,” (verse 11 – compare with the first lie in Genesis 3), and lastly, condemnation because they “had pleasure in unrighteousness” (verse 12).
All of these last sinful things listed here by Paul are things that we, the church empowered by the Holy Spirit, should be actively seeking to retrain. The church today should not be caught up with the things of this world. Instead we should be taking a stand for the righteousness of God. Put on your armor and take a stand in God’s truth (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18). Retrain evil until raptured by Jesus.
Set your mind on things above. To the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul was inspired to write some words that we would do well to take to heart:
- Colossians 3:1–4 – If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
It would be easy to get caught up in the negativity in the news that seems never ending. Don’t let that happen. Take a break. Get alone with Jesus. Look upward, not downward. Seek to live by heavenly eternal priorities. Keep heaven in mind and heart.
C.T. Studd, a missionary to China long ago, said, “This one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life will be burnt out for Thee.” You know, our personal individual last days might be sooner than we think. It’s appointed for a person to die once, then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Are you ready to meet your Savior Jesus? What if you had to meet Him today? Would you be happy to do so, or filled with regret? Just asking.
Keep your mind on Jesus. Live for Jesus and His eternal purposes. Do that, and when He does come in the clouds, you’ll be happy to meet Him.
Accept the “blessed hope” as a blessed hope. To pastor Titus Paul was inspired to write about, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The Rapture is something that we should use to, “comfort one another with these words.” There are a lot of differing views about the Rapture and when it will occur. Someone has said, “Pray for pre, but prepare for post.” In other words, pray for a pre-Tribulation Rapture but prepare for a post-Tribulation Rapture. You can do that if you want. But me, I’m going to rest in the blessed hope of Jesus coming to take me and my loved ones before the Tribulation. For me, such an act fits best with the nature of God and His love. For me, it’s the best sort of comfort in the times we live.
Understand this is real. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Luke 21:33). If Jesus said it, you can believe it and trust it. The prophetic word Jesus gave us, is to prepare us not scare us. Don’t just ignore these words. Be a Berean and search the scriptures to understand if these things are so (Acts 17:11). Be like the sons of Issachar “who had understanding of the times” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Be rapture ready. Jesus said:
- Luke 21:34–36 – “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Pay attention to yourself. Stay close to the Lord. Keep up with your daily devotions. Don’t get all weighed down with partying and playing in this world. Don’t allow yourself to be so distracted that you’re unprepared when Jesus returns. The world can snare and trap you. Don’t let it happen! Above all – “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Jesus has made an escape plan for us. It’s called the Rapture. Watch for it. Pray for it. Live holy in the power of the Spirit. Take a stand now so when Jesus comes, you’ll be standing. Then, we can all take a knee before Him. Oh, what a day that will be!
Let’s close in prayer.
If you have yet to receive Jesus as your Savior and would like to do so, pray this prayer with me:
Father, in Jesus name, I come before You. I have sinned against You. Please forgive my sins. I ask, not on the basis of any works or efforts of my own, but because I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay my debt of sin. I trust in Jesus atoning work on the cross alone for my salvation. I believe Jesus rose from the dead. I accept Him as my Savior. Please forgive my sin and give me spiritual life. Holy Spirit fill me. Please give me a new heart. Help me to live for You. Show me where to serve You. Show me how to serve You. Show me how to make You known to others. And help me be prepared for Jesus’ return. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you know the Lord already, pray this prayer with me:
Father, in Jesus name, I come before You. Thank You for saving my soul. Thank You for Your word and prophecy. Thank You for being beside me and guiding me and helping me to live for you. Please help me through these hard times. I pray for my unsaved family members, my unsaved friends, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone else you would have me share your gospel with. Help me to live for you. Please give me courage to live in these last days. Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Empower me to serve You and bring You glory. Help me to live for You. Show me where to serve You. Show me how to serve You. Show me how to make You known to others. Help me to be ready for Jesus’ return. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Restrain until raptured my brothers and sisters in Christ. In the power of the Holy Spirit, restrain evil until raptured to our blessed hope, Jesus.